Skip to main content

Max Grünewald Collection

Identifier: AR 7204

Scope and Contents

Series I: Personal Records consists of the personal records of Max Grünewald, as well as documents belonging to other family members such as his wife, Hedwig Grünewald (neé Horovitz), his father-in-law, Saul Horovitz, and other individuals. The series has been divided into three subseries and within each, the records have been arranged topically. Hedwig Grünewald's records are predominantly condolence letters sent to her husband upon her death. There are also personal items, such as passports and academic documents, and a small group of her essays that were published in the B'nai Israel Bulletin. Correspondence between Hedwig and Max Grünewald during their separation are found here as well. Subseries 3: Saul Horovitz consists primarily of written material, most of which is undated. These writings have been divided up into general writings, which are shorter in length, essays, sermons and speeches. The subjects expounded upon are religious in nature, such as Jewish ethics, Judaism in various historical time periods, and Arabic and Islamic theology and philosophy.

Series II: Correspondence is composed of letters written to and by Max Grünewald while he was living in the United States. This is one of the largest sections of the collection and illuminates Grünewald's personal and professional life. The early correspondence was aquired during the first accession of the Grünewald estate and contains both personal and professional letters. His personal correspondence consists of cards and birthday acknowledgements, letters from family members and other correspondence with colleagues and friends. Certain individuals have been separated and placed under the heading, "notable." This is due to either their prominence within their respective field or to the nature of their relationship with Max Grünewald. The professional correspondence is composed of letters written by or to Max Grünewald in his capacity as Rabbi of B'nai Israel, as a professor at Jewish Theological Seminary, as the President of the Leo Baeck Institute New York, and as a board member for various organizations, such as the Gustav Wurzweiler Foundation and the Ruth Gottscho Kidney Foundation.

Series III: Jewish Organizations documents Max Grünewald's professional interests as a Rabbi and as an individual concerned with the political and religious activities of American Jews. These actitivies may take the form of an established internationally recognized organization or simply a loosely constructed group whose purpose is to accomplish a temporary goal. Contained here are a variety of records such as financial statements, meeting minutes, and proposals. The bulk of the material is in regards to Congregation B'nai Israel; other noteworthy organizations include the Leo Baeck Institute, the Gustav Wurzweiler Foundation, and the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe, Inc.

Series IV: Research contains materials presumably used by Max Grünewald for his personal and professional growth. Included are research notes on a variety of subjects, such as Jewish philosophy, general philosophy, Jewish family law, a short history of the Jews in Mannheim, and notes on the history of the Leo Baeck Institute. Most of these notes are written in Hebrew. There are also bibliographies of his library at B'nai Israel, and a few manuscript drafts. Miscellaneous items include poems by other authors, editing notes for Grünewald's own writings, and texts of speeches. The bulk of this section consists of index cards that list books from his personal library.

Max Grünewald's compositions are contained in Series V: Writings. While the majority of the texts are signed, those that are not have also been included here under the assumption that they too were created by him. The bulk of this series consists of work written in his capacity as Rabbi for Congregation B'nai Israel. Many of the essays and articles were printed in the synagogue's publication, the Bulletin. The topics of these pieces range from analyzing religious texts and grappling with philosophical questions to addressing the more practical, day-to-day events at the synagogue.

Series VI consists of printed material about Max Grünewald in the form of newspaper clippings, invitations, programs, postcards, writings, and press releases. The articles and clippings document Grünewald's career as a rabbi beginning with his early years in Mannheim throughout his tenure at B'nai Israel. Some of the publications include The Jewish News, Aufbau, The Record, The Item of Millburn and Short Hills, and, of course, the B'nai Israel Bulletin. The articles are not just limited to Grünewald's many accomplishments as a Rabbi, but also describe his work as an influential member of the German Jewish community living within the Northeastern United States.

Series VII visually documents the personal and professional life of Max Grünewald. Included are photographs of him as a youth in Germany as well as photographs depicting his role in the German Jewish community in the United States. In the latter category are pictures of Grünewald attending events at the Leo Baeck Institute during his tenure as President of the organization, receiving honorary degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and meeting former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. There are also quite a number of personal photographs of the Grünewald family.

Series VIII: A/V Materials holds reel to reel recordings of Max Grünewald's lectures and sermons during his time as Rabbi of B'nai Israel. Many of the reels contain not only Grünewald's sermons, but the entire service as well. Max Grünewald also offered a lecture series at the synagogue entitled, "Evening with the Rabbi." The topics of these talks ranged from examining the relationship between Judaism and Christianity to analyzing the impact religion and politics have on each other. The majority of these lectures were given in the mid-1960s, a time of much social change in the United States.


  • Creation: 1735-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1950-1990


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011


Biographical Note

Max Grünewald had a long and distinguished career as a rabbi in Mannheim, Germany, and the United States. More than a spiritual leader of the Jewish American community, he held prominent positions in several major Jewish organizations, including being chair of the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe, co-president of the Gustav Wurzweiler Foundation, vice-president of the Maimonides Institute, and cofounder and president of Leo Baeck Institute New York for more than thirty years. He was a well respected individual who shifted easily from working with powerful Jewish leaders in Europe to leading intimate bible study classes out of his home in Milburn, New Jersey.

Max Israel Grünewald was born on December 4, 1899 in Upper Silesia, Germany. He was one of six children, four of whom survived. He had two brothers, Karl-David and Ernst, and one sister, Betty Hinden. Grünewald’s parents were Simon Grünewald and Klara Ostheimer. Little is known about his mother; however, Simon Grünewald was a Jewish elementary schoolmaster and director of the city’s trade schools in addition to being secretary of the local synagogue. Born in 1868 in Westphalen, Simon Grünewald attended the Teacher’s Seminary in Hanover and began his career teaching in the Lüneburger Heide followed by posts in Sorau and finally, Königshütte. Simon Grünewald died in Israel around 1921.

Grünewald grew up in Königshütte and attended the Jewish elementary school there (one of the few Jewish schools in Germany controlled by the state). At nine years old, he entered the Gymnasium. His father Simon Grünewald, upon taking over the role of Hauptlehrer, became his first teacher. A sickly child, he spent most of his vacation time at children’s homes and bathing resorts while the rest of the family went to Westphalia.

In the fall of 1917, Grünewald was tested for the army. Despite many illnesses during his youth, he was declared fit and entered at seventeen years old. This was at the final stages of World War I. Once enrolled, Grünewald was transported to the fortress Boyen in Lötzen, East Prussia, where he dragged guns up the walls of the fortress, learned to shoot and how to throw hand grenades. His experience in the military was one of tension and frustration, in particular his interactions with one of the corporals. In an oral history conducted years later, Grünewald remarked: "He [the corporal] remained for me a model of self-degradation, of abject humiliation. Today, I feel the shame, as if it were yesterday, the shame over a fellow Jew who played up to the wiles of soldiers and curried favor with gentiles."

Max Grünewald applied for a leave of absence from military duties in 1918 and enrolled as a medical student at the University of Breslau. He was not happy with the subject and met with historian Hugo Brann from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he enrolled after completing his military duties. Since all seminary students had to study at the university as well, Grünewald was registered at both. He majored in philosophy, but took many other courses in psychology, economics and Semitic languages (mainly Babylonian). As a student, Grünewald made money by working as a visiting preacher. Some of the cities that he worked in were Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, and Goerlitz. He also substituted for Dr. Vogelstein, the rabbi of a new local synagogue.

One of his most influential teachers was Saul Horovitz who later became his father-in-law. Saul Horovitz was born in 1859. He studied at the University of Munich and became a rabbi in Bielitz (date unknown). Soon after, Horowitz was approached by Israel Lewy to join the faculty in Bielitz. Upon Lewy’s death, Horowitz took over the position of Seminarrabiner. He was extremely talented with languages and spoke Latin, Greek, Arabic, Persian and, of course, Hebrew. At Breslau, he was in charge of homiletics (sermons). He taught several courses, including medieval philosophy, which was an important part of the curriculum at Breslau. Saul Horovitz died in 1921.

Grünewald received a Doctorate of Philosophy (medieval philosophy) from the University of Breslau in July 1925 and concomitantly was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. His rabbinical authorization occurred in two stages. First, he delivered a paper on medieval philosophy. The paper was concerned with the relationship of Maimonides ethics to Aristotle. Then, he wrote a rabbinic thesis (written in Rabbinic Hebrew), followed by an oral examination.

One year later, Max Grünewald married Hedwig Horovitz on February 1, 1926 in Breslau. Hedwig Horovitz Grünewald was born on November 27, 1896 in Breslau (now Wroclau, Poland), to Rosalie and Saul Horovitz. She had one brother, Dr. Willy Horovitz (of Switzerland), and two sisters, Mrs. Hanni Horovitz (of Jerusalem) and Mrs. Irma Rau (of Tel Aviv). Her great-grandfather was Moshe Bloch, the first rector of the Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest. Hedwig Grünewald attended the medical school at the University of Breslau where she focused on dermatology and was a practicing physician. The couple had two children. Their first son David was born around 1927 and died around 1934. Their second son, Ruben, was born on April 16, 1932.

After graduation, Max Grünewald held the post of Chief-Rabbi of the Mannheim Synagogue from April 1925 to March 1938. During this time, he was also president of the Mannheim Jewish community, a rare honor. After the Mannheim Synagogue was destroyed during the 1938 Kristallnacht, the Grünewalds fled to Palestine. Max Grünewald traveled back and forth between Palestine and the United States where he conducted research at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (in New York City). He lived in Palestine until 1944, when he immigrated permanently to the United States and began working as an interim Rabbi for Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn, New Jersey. Hedwig and Ruben Grünewald remained in Palestine until 1946, when they were able to immigrate to America. One year later, Max Grünewald became a naturalized citizen.

Grünewald’s professional life revolved around Congregation B’nai Israel, an egalitarian synagogue affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. He was rabbi and spiritual leader from May 15, 1944 to March 25, 1970. Besides running the services, he offered adult education classes and a lecture series entitled, "Evening with the Rabbi." On May 2, 1958, Grünewald was named Rabbi Emeritus of B’nai Israel. He was also a member of the executive committee of the New York Board of Rabbis.

Beginning in the early 1950s, Grünewald became very involved with several important Jewish organizations based in the New York area. He was President of the Jewish Philanthropic Fund of 1933, Inc., and one of the directors of the Ruth Gottscho Kidney Foundation, which is still in existence today. Grünewald was also a board member of the Maimonides Institute, an organization that provided education, training and research to mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed children, from 1961 to 1965, when he was named Vice-President.

In 1942, Grünewald co-founded the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe and was chair from 1952 to 1962. He was also a co-administrator of the Gustav Wurzweiler Foundation. This fund was created for charitable purposes by a former Mannheim resident named Wurzweiler. Grünewald was co-president from 1954 to 1985. Incidentally, it was monies received from both of those institutions, as well as the Claims Conference for Material Claims against Germany, which enabled the founding of another prominent German Jewish organization, the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI).

Max Grünewald was present at the very beginning of LBI’s founding in Jerusalem, at the home of Martin Buber, about a year or so before Leo Baeck died. In fact, all three Institutes, London, New York, and Jerusalem, were founded around the same time, 1954 to 1955. The initial goal of the LBI was to document the lives of Jews living in Germany from the time of the Enlightenment to the time of the Holocaust. After the founding, Grünewald remained an integral part of the Institute and was named president of the New York LBI in 1956, a position he held until 1985. In a retrospective article titled, "After Twenty-Five Years," from a 1980 issue of LBI News, Grünewald writes, "The Institute remains widely visible because the complex character of the German Jew appears also in the manifold expressions and functions of the Institute and because the Institute has an ethos of its own." His role as a leader of LBI was not limited to the United States, however, for Grünewald was also the International President of the organization from 1974 to May 1991.

The 1970s saw several major events occur in Max Grünewald’s life. He received two honorary degrees. The first was an honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from Bar Ilan University in Israel given to him in 1970. The second, given in 1975 by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, was an honorary Doctorate in Divinity. It was during this time, though, that Hedwig Grünewald passed away. After battling various illnesses, she died on July 20, 1974. Shortly thereafter, B’nai Israel named its newly established nursery school after her, out of reverence for her interest in children’s health issues and their emotional wellbeing.

Max Grünewald continued to be involved in the physical expansion of B’nai Israel and the intellectual growth of the Leo Baeck Institute. He also maintained ties with other former Mannheim residents and took part in several reunions both in the United States and in Germany. For the 1987 reunion, Grünewald traveled to Mannheim in order to participate in the dedication of the new Mannheim synagogue. On December 28, 1992, Max Grünewald succumbed to cancer. The following year, the city of Mannheim named a square in his honor, the Rabbiner Max Grünewald Platz, illustrating his impact as a religious leader and an individual.


16 Linear Feet


This collection documents the personal and professional life of Max Grünewald (1899-1992) a rabbi in Mannheim, Germany, and the United States. His influence in the German Jewish American community was not limited to the synagogue, though, for he held prominent positions in several major Jewish organizations, including being chair of the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe, co-president of the Gustav Wurzweiler Foundation, vice-president of the Maimonides Institute, and cofounder and president of Leo Baeck Institute New York for more than thirty years. The bulk of the records is correspondence (both personal and professional) and research, in the form of handwritten manuscripts, research notes and index cards. Max Grünewald's personal records and writings are also well represented in the form of paper and audiovisual material.


This collection has twenty-two microfilm reels.

  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/14
  2. Reel 2: 1/15-2/7
  3. Reel 3: 2/8-2/21
  4. Reel 4: 3/1-3/26
  5. Reel 5: 3/27-4/5
  6. Reel 6: 4/6-4/30
  7. Reel 7: 4/31-5/3
  8. Reel 8: 5/4-5/23
  9. Reel 9: 5/24-5/37
  10. Reel 10: 5/38-6/9
  11. Reel 11: 6/10-6/24
  12. Reel 12: 6/25-6/35
  13. Reel 13: 7/1-7/14
  14. Reel 14: 7/15-8/2
  15. Reel 15: 8/3-8/11
  16. Reel 16: 8/12-8/18
  17. Reel 17: 9/1-9/7
  18. Reel 18: 9/8-9/18
  19. Reel 19: 9/19-10/12
  20. Reel 20: 10/13-10/32
  21. Reel 21: Box I-1 - Box I-7
  22. Reel 22: Box I-7 - Box I-11/7

Related Material

Most of Max Grünewald's publications are held in the library. Please see the catalogue for a complete description of available texts. However, additional copies may be within the collection and are located in Series V: Writings.

In addition to the publications, the memoir of Simon Grünewald, Max Grünewald's father, is also housed in the archives of the Leo Baeck Institute. The call number of the memoir is ME 764. Please see the catalogue for full details.

Separated Material

All offprints and books have been removed to the Leo Baeck Institute Library. If the text contained a dedication to Max Grünewald, a photocopy was made of the title page and the dedication was placed in a folder within the collection. The titles of the removed books may be found in the biblipgraphy section of Series IV: Research, Subseries 1: General.

Guide to the Papers of Max Grünewald (1899-1992), 1735-1997 (bulk 1950-1990)   AR 7204 / MF 727
Processed by Lea Osborne
© 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2010-03-23 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States